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A big job in government? Fugeddaboutit!

Our public oeconomy also is such as to offer drudgery and subsistence only to those entrusted with its administration, a wise & necessary precaution against the degeneracy of the public servants. In our private pursuits it is a great advantage that every honest employment is deemed honorable.
To Jean Nicholas Demeunier, April 29, 1795

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Enterprising leaders should look to the private sector.
Demeunier was a French writer and public official who emigrated to America to avoid the bloodshed sweeping France. He was living in New York and wrote to Jefferson inquiring about employment possibilities. Though Jefferson demurred, saying he was too far away and too unfamiliar to be of much help, he offered some observations about work in America.

1. Top government jobs paid a bare minimum and offered plenty of drudgery. This was both “wise & necessary.” It kept capable people from making a career of public employment, both to their detriment and the government’s.
Demeunier had been part of the King’s court in France and had a very privileged life. Jefferson discouraged him from thinking a similar position here held any value or status.

2. Just the opposite of public employment, the sky was the limit in private enterprise. All honest work in America was “deemed honorable.” This “great advantage” was as available to the immigrant Demeunier as it was to any other resident of any status.

“Best wishes for continued success with your outstanding presentations
to audiences across our great land.”

Indiana Telecommunications Association
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What about term limits? Part 2 of 2

My reason for fixing them [senators] in office for a term of years rather than for life, was that they might have in idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independance to forget.
To Edmund Pendleton, August 26, 1776

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Elected leaders need to return to being led.
Why do office-holders need term limits?
1. To remember that at a specific time they will leave office.
2. At that time, they will be governed rather than govern.
3. That reality will keep them focused on the public good, which they might forget if they were in office for life, independent of the voters and answerable to no one.

“Our mission is to deliver real value to our audience.
Due to your efforts, we fulfilled that goal.”
Rural Cellular Association, Boston, MA/Austin, TX
Thomas Jefferson will bring real value to your audience!
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What about term limits? Part 1 of 2

To make them [senators] independent, I had proposed that they should hold their places for nine years, and then go out (one third every three years) and be incapable for ever of being re-elected to that house. My idea was that if they might be re-elected, they would be casting their eyes forward to the period of election (however distant) and be currying favor with the electors, and consequently dependent on them.
To Edmund Pendleton, August 26, 1776

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Limiting leaders keeps them properly focused.
Written just seven weeks after declaring independence, Jefferson expressed the view that senators should be chosen by popularly-elected representatives and not by direct vote of the people. He would limit a senator’s service to one term of nine years with no possibility of re-election.
Why no re-election? It was to keep the senator’s eyes on the task of governing only and on the people he was elected to serve. If he could be re-elected, he would seek favor with representatives who chose him, becoming dependent on them, because they could choose him again.

“It is a delight to have speakers like you who make me look good.”
Meetings Administrator, Iowa State Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson will make you look good to your audience!
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Who is to blame for trashy media?

Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance [Webster’s 7th Collegiate: “a disposition to please or oblige”] to their auditors [ibid, “one that hears or listens’], and instead of the abhorrence & indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, tho they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is it’s real author.
To John Norvell, June 14, 1807

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Does this sound like 2014 to you?
Jefferson was on a rant about slander in the newspapers. In an earlier post from this letter, he summarized four categories for newspaper content, “Truths, Probabilities, Possibilities, and Lies.” He said the first category would be the smallest, the last the largest.
The language in this excerpt is a bit confusing. Here’s a summary:
1. Reading another’s trashed reputation had become such a stimulant that people could not begin or end their day without it.
2. Even those who didn’t believe the lies read them anyway, to please those who did read them.
3. Instead of having a “virtuous mind,” horrified by lies, they “betray a secret pleasure” that others may actually believe the slander, even though they don’t.
4. Who is to blame, then, for slander? Not the one who offers the slander but the one who pays for it. (By reading it. Or watching it. Or listening to it.)

“Thank you so much for your enormous contribution
to the success of our recent workshop … “
The Smithsonian Associates, Washington, D. C.
Mr. Jefferson desires to contribute to the success of your meeting!
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The hangman just does his job.

Had you hundreds to nominate, instead of one, be assured they would not compose for you a bed of roses. You would find yourself in most cases with one loaf and ten wanting bread. Nine must be disappointed, perhaps become secret, if not open enemies. The transaction of the great interests of our country costs us little trouble or difficulty. There the line is plain to men of some experience. But the task of appointment is a heavy one indeed. He on whom it falls may envy the lot of a Sisyphus or Ixion. Their agonies were of the body: this of the mind. Yet, like the office of hangman it must be executed by some one. It has been assigned to me and made my duty. I make up my mind to it therefore, & abandon all regard to consequences. Accept my salutations & assurances of respect.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Personnel decisions vex all leaders!
Larkin, a political supporter in Virginia, had twice written the President, asking for a job and received no reply. In a third letter, he expressed dismay at the lack of a response. Larkin thought his years of service to the nation merited at least an answer, if not a job.

In an earlier part of this letter, Jefferson explained Larkin’s failure to receive the appointment he sought was an answer. The President went on to explain one of the most difficult parts of his job was disappointing people who sought employment.
Great issues facing the country posed little difficulty, because wise, experienced men knew what to do. Personnel issues were another matter entirely. Only one person could be appointed per job, and the many not chosen would be disappointed. The losers, who might have been allies, could become private foes, maybe even public ones.

In such matters, Jefferson compared himself to the hangman. As someone had to do that unpleasant job, he had to do his, each time rewarding one and disappointing many. It came with the territory of being a leader. He accepted the responsibility and refused to worry about the consequences.

“ … please accept this letter of thanks and appreciation
for your outstanding presentation … “
University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
Mr. Jefferson will be outstanding for your audience, too!
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Would you be ruled by reason … or the rod?

A just and solid republican government maintained here, will be a standing monument & example … that a free government is of all others the most energetic … compared with those of the leaders on the other side [of the ocean], who have discountenanced all advances in science as dangerous innovations, have endeavored to render philosophy and republicanism terms of reproach, to persuade us that man cannot be governed but by the rod, &c.
To John Dickinson, March 6, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Republican leaders govern by restraint, not by the rod.
Two days into his Presidency, Jefferson contrasted the nation’s new government, turned from Federalist to republican, to those of European nations. Hallmarks of republicanism were a self-governed, free and equal people.

His use of the word “energetic” could be interpreted two ways:
- A government “operating with vigor or effect,” Websters 7th New Collegiate, because it understood and stayed within its limited Constitutional role
- Describing a citizenry unburdened by a meddlesome government.
Regardless, it did not mean as activist national government.

What characterized European governments?
- They rejected “all advances in science as dangerous innovations.”
- They discredited the notion of equality for all.
- Man could only be governed by force, rather than reason.

“… our sincere appreciation to you for your exceptional presentation…”
Missouri Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
Mr. Jefferson will bring an exceptional presentation to your audience!
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Would you eat bad tavern food with the President?

… If you can be contented with a bad tavern dinner, I should be happy if you would come and dine with our mess to-morrow, if convenient to you, or the next day, and if you could come half an hour before dinner, I would be alone that we might have some conversation; say at half after two. Or if this should not suit you any other time will be acceptable to me …
To Charles Pinckney, March 6, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders warn friends about bad food!
Pinckney was a republican Senator from South Carolina. Several times he had written to Jefferson, asking to be consulted before any decisions were made concerning his state. A day earlier, March 5, Pinckney wrote to Jefferson withdrawing his request, apologizing that it might have been inappropriate. In this letter, two days into his Presidency, Jefferson was quick to reassure his political ally that he wanted his input and was eager to meet.

The new President invited his friend to dine with him at his boarding house, Conrad & McMunn’s, just a few hundred feet from the President’s House (later known as The White House), where Jefferson would soon move.

Jefferson had a private reception room at Conrad’s for meeting guests, where he and Pinckney would meet and talk privately. All other conversation would be subject to overhearing, as 30 some Congressman also lived at the boarding house. All ate at a common dining table. I can’t determine if Jefferson had a private sleeping room, or if he shared a room or bed with others, a common practice.

This excerpt first caught my eye first because of Jefferson’s reference to “a bad tavern dinner.” I thought it a rare example of his wry humor. As I researched the matter, I wondered if he was offering his friend not humor but a warning…

“… you were just outstanding as Thomas Jefferson.”
Substantive Program Chair for the 11th U.S. Court of Appeals
Judicial Conference
Mr. Jefferson will stand out for your audience, too!
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What made Jesus different? 5 of 5

The precepts of philosophy, and of the Hebrew code, laid hold of actions only. He [Jesus] pushed his scrutinies into the heart of man; erected his tribunal in the region of his thoughts, and purified the waters at the fountain head.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
From Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson, P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The moral codes of the Jews and the philosophers, which Jefferson compared with Jesus’ doctrines, dealt with “actions only,” how people should or should not behave. Jesus went beyond that. He looked into the human heart, where thoughts and behaviors arise, and sought to make a difference there. Where others dealt with actions, Jesus dealt with what motivated those actions. Rather than police the actions, he sought to change the motivation so policing would no longer be necessary.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different?

“Your presentation set just the right historical sense of place
to match our convention theme,
The Journey Ahead.”

Association of Partners for Public Lands
Mr. Jefferson will promote your theme and your purpose at your meeting.
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Jesus did talk about religion publicly – 4 of 5

His moral doctrines, relating to kindred [family] and friends were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers, and greatly more so than those of the Jews; and they went far beyond both in inculcating universal philanthropy [Webster’s 7th New Collegiate: “good will to fellow men; esp: active effort to promote human welfare”], not only to kindred and friends, to neighbors and countrymen, but to all mankind, gathering all into one family, under the bonds of love, charity, peace, common wants and common aids. A development of this head will evince [ibid, “display clearly: reveal] the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all the others.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson
P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Jefferson had received from another friend, Dr. Joseph Priestly, “his little treatise of “Socrates and Jesus Compared”.” That prompted Jefferson to consider the comparison more broadly, and he wrote a “Syllabus of an Estimate of the Merit of the Doctrines of Jesus, compared with those of others.” He included that summary with this letter to Dr. Rush. It compared Jesus’ views with those of seven ancient philosophers (Socrates, Epicurus and Cicero among the better known ones) and with those of the Jews.

He examined only the moral principles taught by the Jews, the philosophers  and Jesus (without any consideration of his divinity). He put Jesus’ doctrine ahead of the philosophers and way ahead of the Jews, for two reasons:
1. How one should treat family and friends was “more pure and perfect.”
2. Beyond that, Jesus’ promotion of “universal philanthropy,” not just to some but to “all mankind,” creating a common family united in love, kindness and service.

The title of Jefferson’s study began with the word “syllabus.” It was a summary only. Pursuing the subject in depth, which he was not prepared to do, would prove Jesus’ moral code to be unquestionably superior.

Jefferson could not have known any of this had Jesus not spoken very publicly about religion.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different

“Your topic selection and program were extraordinary.
Your responses to our questions were insightful.”
American College of Real Estate Lawyers
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Although I don’t talk about religion publicly, 3 of 5

To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others; ascribing to him every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.
To Doctor Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803
Koch & Peden’s Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson
P. 519 – 522

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need friends who can be trusted completely.
Although Jefferson would not talk about religion publicly, and urged the same upon Dr. Rush, he had no difficulty sharing his very personal religious views in this letter. Why? Because Rush was a trusted friend, a man he’d known for a quarter century, since the time both had signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson knew Rush would keep his confidence.
These two sentences contain the essence of Jefferson’s views on Christianity. He believed:
1. Himself a Christian by virtue of his devotion to Jesus’ teaching “in preference to all others”;
2. Jesus was a man of “every human excellence.” (“Human” is italicized in K&P’s transcription, probably meaning it was underlined for emphasis in the author’s original version.)
3. Jesus was not divine and did not claim that status;
4. Anything beyond Jesus’ words and teaching constituted “corruptions of Christianity,” which he opposed.

This post is part of a series of five, all taken from the same letter:
1. Why I don’t talk about religion publicly
2. Why you shouldn’t talk about religion publicly
3. Although I don’t talk about religion publicly
4. Jesus did talk about religion publicly
5. What made Jesus different

“… thank you for being so great to work with…so accommodating and flexible …
[you] then delivered above my expectations.”
Boone County National Bank
For a low-maintenance, high-delivery speaker for your audience,
call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739.
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